Ahead of UN vote, US says bid to boost Gaza aid could slow deliveries

UNITED NATIONS: Ahead of a likely vote on Thursday, the United States said there are "serious and widespread concerns" that the current draft of a U.N. Security Council proposal that aims to boost humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip could actually slow down deliveries.

Last-minute negotiations continued on Thursday to try to avoid a U.S. veto of the resolution, drafted by the United Arab Emirates, that would demand that Israel and Hamas allow and facilitate "the use of all land, sea and air routes to and throughout the entire Gaza" for humanitarian aid deliveries.

"We're not there yet," deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Robert Wood told reporters on Thursday.

A key sticking point is a proposal for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to establish a monitoring mechanism in Gaza "to exclusively monitor all humanitarian relief consignments to Gaza provided through land, sea and air routes of those States that are not parties to the conflict."

This would dilute Israel's control over all aid deliveries to 2.3 million people in Gaza. Currently Israel monitors the limited aid and fuel deliveries to Gaza via the Rafah crossing from Egypt and the Israel-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing.

"There are still serious and widespread concerns that this resolution as drafted could actually slow down delivery of humanitarian aid," said Nate Evans, spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the United Nations on Thursday. "We must ensure any resolution helps and doesn't hurt the situation on the ground."

Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary General Jan Egeland, who was the U.N. aid chief from 2003-06, disagreed with the U.S. view and said Gaza aid monitoring should not remain in the hands of Israel because it is party to the conflict.

"It is categorically wrong to say that the U.N. monitoring mechanism would slow down aid," said Egeland, adding that he wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken within days of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel to push for a third party aid monitoring mechanism, led by the U.N., U.S. or European Union.

Israel has retaliated against Hamas for the Oct. 7 attacks by bombarding Gaza from the air, imposing a siege and launching a ground offensive. Nearly 20,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to health officials in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric declined to comment on the aid monitoring proposal on Thursday.

He told reporters on Wednesday: "The Secretary-General's own position is unchanged. He's been calling for a humanitarian ceasefire and also he's been calling for the creation of the conditions on the ground to be conducive for broader delivery of humanitarian aid."

Washington traditionally shields its ally Israel from U.N. action and has already twice vetoed Security Council action since an Oct. 7 attack that Israel says killed 1,200 people and saw 240 people taken hostage.

The U.S. is also wary of a reference in the draft resolution to a cessation of hostilities, said diplomats. The U.S. and Israel oppose a ceasefire, believing it would only benefit Hamas. Washington instead supports pauses in fighting to protect civilians and free hostages taken by Hamas.

Most people in Gaza have been driven from their homes and U.N. officials have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe. The World Food Programme says half of Gaza's population is starving and only 10% of the food required has entered Gaza since Oct. 7.

Earlier this month the 193-member U.N. General Assembly demanded a humanitarian ceasefire, with 153 states voting in favor of the move that had been vetoed by the United States in the Security Council days earlier. --REUTERS

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